By Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times
At this time of year, our annuals and most perennials are starting to look a little tired, especially after all the heat of late.
Dahlias, however, are just getting into their stride as the true stars of the late summer and early fall garden.
Many people shy away from dahlias because they find them too high maintenance due to having to store them for the winter, but never fear – they really are quite easy and with a little care will come through even bigger each year.
There are also some people who treat them as annuals and grow new ones every year – it’s up to you and just depends on how much time and effort to you want to spend.
Dahlias come in so many different forms and sizes, from the small tight round ‘pompom’ blooms to the large ‘dinnerplate’ varieties, ranging from 12-inches tall to more than five feet.
Do some research into which types you like first or just jump in and try some.
Dahlias are grown from tubers, and should be planted outside when the ground is warm enough – for here in the Lower Mainland, we use the May long weekend as a guideline for safely putting out both annuals and planting dahlia tubers. If planted too soon, they get a bit cranky as they don’t like cold ground.
Plant in well-drained soil and be sure to amend the soil with organic matter – manure, compost, etc. Also be sure to fertilize well upon planting.
Do not water until you see new growth emerge, as they can drown, and overwatering can cause rot. Dahlias enjoy a low-nitrogen fertilizer about once a month, and a 5-10-10 is an excellent choice. Be sure to water 2-3 times a week as the plant is growing.
Keep in mind that taller varieties will need staking.
Dahlias make excellent cut flowers and will keep you in bouquets right through to fall.
After enjoying the blooms and the weather gets cooler, dig up the tubers before frost. Clean off the tubers, dry them and wrap in burlap or cover in sawdust in a dry, dark box.
Store in a cool, dark, and dry place for the winter until it is time to wake them up again in spring.
If you need more information, many local garden clubs have dahlia exhibits in August and September and there are many dahlia tuber sales in the spring, so check them out.
– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials and president of the Langley Garden Club
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